Our Cathedral of Saint Matthew the Apostle
Today, the Feast of Saint Matthew offers us a chance to reflect on our own Cathedral of Saint Matthew the Apostle which is my special church as Archbishop of Washington and the home church of our family of faith in this archdiocese.
The word “cathedral” itself takes its name from the bishop’s teaching chair (kathedra, in Latin) from which he presides at Mass. The chair symbolizes his apostolic authority to teach in the name of the Church. Thus, a bishop at his chair in the cathedral is the sign of the unity in faith and charity that defines the Church.
Our Cathedral of Saint Matthew, with its dome rising nearly 200 feet on the Washington skyline, is a landmark of faith in our nation’s capital. The English word dome comes from the Italian duomo, which in turn comes from the Latin domus meaning “house.” Italians often call a cathedral il duomo, because it is the house of God. Today’s cathedrals continue the legacy of the house churches where the Apostles taught the first followers of Christ.
This fall will mark the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s Funeral Mass at the Cathedral of Saint Matthew the Apostle in November 1963, as world leaders gathered there to mourn our nation’s first Catholic president following his tragic assassination. People also prayed together in the cathedral following the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001. Washingtonians hurried to the cathedral to offer prayers of thanksgiving at the end of World War II in 1945 and attended a Mass celebrated there by Blessed John Paul II during his 1979 visit to our capital city.
History unfolds at the cathedral each fall as it hosts the Red Mass, attended by Supreme Court justices and other government leaders – sometimes including our president – who pray for God’s blessing and guidance on our country’s administration of justice.
Every day, the story of our salvation unfolds at the Cathedral of Saint Matthew as priests consecrate the Eucharist at the altar made of white marble from the region of India where the Taj Mahal was built, and at the marble ambo where the word of God is proclaimed. For generations, people from all walks of life have come to pray there, and strengthened by the Eucharist and God’s Word, they have gone out into the world and into the daily challenges of living the Gospel. Like Saint Matthew, who is depicted in dramatic mosaics and murals in the cathedral, they hear Christ’s invitation, “Follow me.”
People from different branches of government and from international and national institutions, along with visitors from across the country and our community, worship at the cathedral named for a tax collector who, fittingly, is the patron saint of civil servants. This apostle and evangelist offers a living example of following Jesus and sharing his Good News. Longtime Washingtonians and newcomers alike truly can come home to our cathedral.